Pente means five in Greek while athlos means contest, so the pentathlon included five events: discus, javelin, long jump (three events which only existed as part of the pentathlon), running and wrestling. Athletes are doing some of these on this pot. The modern pentathlon has the five events of horseriding, fencing, shooting, swimming and cross-country running.
There was only the long jump, not the high jump, in Greek athletics. You can see that the athlete in the picture is holding heavy lead or stone jumping weights called halteres. These were swung to increase the length of the jump. You can also see three pegs in the ground which mark the previous jumps.
The longest race at the ancient Olympics was the foot race called dolichos which was about 5 kilometres. The shortest was the fast sprint, the stade, which was about 192 metres long. For the first 50 years of the Olympic games it was the only event. In the picture you can see a man sprinting.
Wrestling and boxing
The two naked fighters shown on this cup are taking part in the pankration, a type of wrestling match in which nearly anything was allowed, including kicking and trying to strangle your opponent. There are also some boxers on the left – one with cuts on his face. Boxing was even more violent than the pankration.
This is the Discobolos, a beautiful statue of a discus-thrower. When the statue was found the head was broken off. The person who repaired the statue, before it was brought to the Museum, joined the head on facing the wrong way. Discus throwers look towards the discus, not away from it.
One unusual event involved a team of horseback riders galloping a relay race at night carrying a flaming torch. The picture shows a winning torch-race team approaching a goddess. To mark the start of the modern Games a relay of runners carry a lit torch (called the Olympic Flame) from Olympia itself to the site of the Games.
The chariot races were perhaps the most exciting of all the events at Olympia. Chariot driving was very dangerous. Drivers were risking their lives as the chariot could crash at high speed. There were races for four-horse chariots and two-horse chariots. On the front of this coin you can see a man driving a four-horse racing chariot.
In ancient Olympia there was a race for carts drawn by a team of two mules. However, this sport was included for only fourteen Olympic games. This is a coin made to celebrate a victory in the race. You can see the high seat which all mule-carts had.
Running in armour
The race in armour, called the hoplitodromia, reminded all Greeks that one of the main purposes of athletics was to prepare them to fight for war. Running in full heavy armour in hot weather can’t have been easy. In the picture the winner has taken off his helmet, while the loser has thrown down his weapons in annoyance.